Navaratri: Hindus fast, pay homage to Durga & femininity during ‘Nine Nights’

Girl with eyes closed, items on table, with hands clasped

A young girl pays respect during Navratri. Photo by Manoo Joshi, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1: For the first time in 16 years, Hindus celebrate an exceptional religious festival for 10 days, celebrating legends and femininity during Sharad Navaratri. (English spellings vary; the name often appears without the middle “a.” Read more on the astrology of this year’s determination here.) An ancient festival that emphasizes the motherhood of the divine, Navaratri is usually observed for nine nights; this year, the Hindu calendar so falls that the festival will last an extra day, and include two weekends, as well.

Each night during Navaratri, Hindus worship a different form or characteristic of the Mother Goddess Durga, who is regarded as being manifested in cosmic energy and power. In general, Sharad Navaratri is the celebration of good over evil, though many aspects of this tradition vary by region in India and around the world.

Did you know? The key term, Navaratri, literally refers to nine nights (“nava” and “ratri”).

Woman dancing in brightly colored costume with other dancers, Indian

Dancing for Navaratri. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Navaratri in its basic form takes place five times per year, but it’s Sharad Navaratri—this festival, at the beginning of autumn—that takes precedence over any other. Sharad Navaratri culminates on a final day known as Dussehra.

Legends related to this observance differ: Some indicate that Shiva gave permission to Durga to visit her mother for nine days, while others describe Durga’s victory following a nine-day battle with the demon Mahishasura. Life-size clay figures depicting this battle are commonly seen in temples during Navaratri. But there is a universal theme to this tradition, too: All Hindus aim for purity, avoiding meat, grains and alcohol—and usually installing a household pot that is kept lit for nine days. Some devotees fast, and others consume only milk and fruit for nine days.

NIGHTTIME DANCING AND ADORNMENTS

In India, Navaratri brings out orchestras and community-wide singing; nighttime dances in the streets combine with bountiful feasts and shrines are elaborately decorated. In Saraswat Brahmin temples, statue figures are adorned with flowers, sandalwood paste and turmeric. In some regions of India, it’s believed that one should try to envision the divinity in the tools used for daily life—whether books, computers or larger instruments—and decorate them with flowers and other adornments, in hopes of both humbling themselves and bringing auspiciousness upon the items that aid them in livelihood.

NEWS: DOMINO’S GOES VEGETARIAN, INDIA REVS UP FOR FESTIVITIES

In preparation for the food restrictions of its Indian customers during Navaratri, approximately 500 Domino’s pizza outlets in 248 cities across India will go all-vegetarian during the Hindu festival, reports the Free Press Journal. That’s not all: the chain’s participating locations will also intend to feature no onions, garlic or wheat during the days and nights of Navratri, according to news reports.

Fasting is an integral part of Navratri, and this article from NDTV suggests 10 basic staples to have in the kitchen in preparation for the length of the festival.

What are the trends for Navratri 2016? Times of India offers tips and the latest news from Mumbai, including fashion trends, sought-after products and more.


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